Thirty’s Something

During a staff meeting in preparation for this anniversary issue, editor Bob Yearick insisted now was the time—after all these years—to reveal to readers what the TSN, in our corporate name TSN Media, represents.

I figured the story behind the letters would be about as interesting to readers as what I had for breakfast. So, I rejected the suggestion as being self-absorbed. But the staff countered, taking turns to support Yearick’s argument. Turns out, each had been asked more than once about the acronym. Plus, Facebook is the place to reveal what you had for breakfast.

So, I reconsidered. Not because I really believed readers were dying to know the story behind three letters, but because it was a good opportunity to share my view on why Out & About has survived for 30 years.

But first, for those who must know, TSN stands for The Softball News, a publication I started back in 1983 as a moonlight enterprise when I was a sportswriter for a small weekly in Maryland. It was my first taste of independent publishing and a lifelong lesson in the travails of being butcher-baker-candlestick-maker. To say it was a mom-and-pop operation would have been exaggerating my staff size by 100 percent. I sold the ads, designed the ads, covered the games, wrote the stories, wrote the headlines, laid out the magazine, then with the magic of wax and a razor blade, pasted the halftones and galleys on graph paper and did a late-night sprint to the printer and returned the next morning to pick up the publication and help deliver it.

Obviously, the experience didn’t scar me for life because in 1988 I began publishing Out & About while still producing The Softball News. Two publications merited a corporate name, so I chose the initials of The Softball News for one simple reason: I thought they were lucky. When The Softball News debuted in ‘83, we were the newest of approximately 50 softball-specific publications in the country. In less than a decade, that number was seven. We were one of the seven.

The secret to that survival? Recognizing an audience and adding energy to their passion. We engaged the audience in ways they found flattering and entertaining.

We didn’t just compile score and standings, we told colorful stories, had dynamic photography, and treated the sport like it was the biggest thing since WWF. We shined a spotlight on weekend warriors by naming Players of the Week, Teams of the Week and Top 10 rankings. And just to stir up the rivalries, every headline was a pun:  Herman’s Meats grills Goldey Beacom Alumni; Casapulla’s peppers Brandywine League foes. In fact, we were able to raise the profile of the game enough that we even had a short-lived TV show on local cable.

Five years later, we took that same energy into Out & About, ignoring the naysayers who complained there wasn’t enough going on in Wilmington to support our endeavor. In fact, during our first six months, more than a few area businesses told us quite candidly—and without animus—they doubted we’d last a year.

Undaunted but far from overconfident, we stayed true to our mission and convinced enough talented writers, photographers and artists that with their help we could be a valued storyteller. Compelling local stories told by local talent has been the key to our success.

That and our genuine commitment to the community. From the beginning we didn’t just chronicle the scene, we worked to expand it. When we saw a worthy enterprise in need of a hand, we tried to lend it. When we noticed a void, we worked to fill it.

In fact, we batted around a lot of ideas regarding the proper way to commemorate this anniversary. A bash for the decades was considered. In the end, we chose to stay true to our personality — more about the community and less about us.

The result, with apologies to ESPN, is our very own 30 For 30…30 events to commemorate 30 years. Ambitious, for sure, but it’s a fitting way to showcase many of the partnerships Out & About has developed over the years – partnerships indispensable to our longevity.

Thirty years? Go figure. To think that I’ve now spent half of my life publishing this magazine is, personally, astonishing.

But it’s also quite rewarding to reach this milestone, to know the community still has value for your contribution. That’s something Out & About has never taken for granted. And something we never will.

Ready, Set, Sweat!

The New Year offers some trendy options to spice up your health and wellness regimen, but you still have to put in the work

The New Yorker recently published an article about a pill that seemingly eliminates the need for a workout: Just swallow it and get the same results as if you had exercised. One problem: At the end of the article, it’s revealed that none of the inventors had tried the pill—an ominous commentary on a supposedly miracle drug.

So, as we enter 2018, it seems there still is nothing that will take the place of sweat equity. But the good news is there are plenty of new and trendy health and wellness offerings to take your mind off the monotony of the typical gym—or home—workout. There are online challenges, innovative classes, “social” sports, fitness apps and clean eating.

Take the Plank/Squat Challenge

Planks and squats are two simple, basic exercises that have become the focus of online “challenges.”

The plank is a push-up like exercise with the body’s weight borne on forearms, elbows and toes. Its popularity has increased over the last decade or so, perhaps because it’s a total body workout, perfect for a toned core, requiring no equipment and only enough floor space to accommodate your body.

The squat has been around forever and is considered the king of lower-body exercises. The standard squat is done with a barbell resting on the person’s shoulders, but it can be done without weights.

Plank and squat challenges usually last 30 days, with participants tasked with gradually increasing the time in the pose every day or two. A plank challenge might start with holding the pose for 30 seconds and end a month later at three minutes. Like the plank, the squat challenge uses no weights, instead focusing its poses on the glutes, thighs and core. One online 30-day challenge starts at 50 squats and ends with 250.

Research suggests it takes an average of two months to make something a habit, so start now and you’ll be doing this on a regular basis by March.

Variety is the Spice of Life

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one of the hottest exercises on the health and fitness scene—for good reason.

Classes, typically 30 minutes or less, toggle between high and low intensity for increased fat burning. Instead of relying on steady-state cardio exercises (where your heart rate stays at a certain threshold), HIIT’s on-again, off-again intensity can lead to rapid results.

Scott McCarthy, owner and personal trainer at Balance Strength & Fitness Center, recommends HIIT.

Scott McCarthy, owner and personal trainer at Balance Strength & Fitness Center near Fourth Street and Greenhill Avenue, added HIIT classes a year-and-a-half ago. “It’s become one of the fastest growing parts of our business,” he says. “It makes up 15 percent of our membership base.”

In addition to HIIT, small group training has become increasingly popular. The reason? “Clients want to show up, work out (efficiently) in a social setting, and get good results,” says McCarthy.

Trainers cap sessions at 10 participants, so they can actively monitor everyone’s technique.

Bodies in Motion

Another trend is “functional fitness”—classes dedicated to making everyday movements easier. Think walking up and down stairs, playing football with the kids, and picking up bags of groceries.

Says McCarthy: “It’s the antithesis of the CrossFit image, which sometimes teaches improper technique and could lead to injuries. Clients are now hyperfocused on (proper) movement, which can improve balance, strength, flexibility and coordination.”

Located off Kentmere Parkway and Rockford Road, FIT Delaware provides a full range of fitness opportunities, including personal and group training. Trainer Todd Brown says he has noticed a big shift in the industry from last year’s focus on “traditional exercises by body part” to functional training. Brown likes to change the angles of exercise every couple of days. By altering the angles, his clients work a different portion of the same muscle. He sees the most success by working different muscle groups multiple times a week.

“This summer,” Brown says, “I worked with a couple of college athletes to get them in shape for the fall season using this methodology. At the end of our time together, they all thought they were much stronger at the beginning of the season than in years past.”

Body-Weight Training

Body-weight training or working without weights has become another in-demand alternative to using cumbersome, sweat-stained exercise equipment.

Body-weight training allows you to work out at home, in the park or even at the gym without any equipment. Getting started is easy and can consist of a couple of different exercises like push-ups, planks, burpees, jump squats, lunges, box jumps and more.

Social Sports

As we age, being and staying active becomes an important aspect of our lives. We often build our activities around our most important relationships—family and friends. And that’s how social sports started.

Locally, the movement led to the creation of two organizations geared to adults of all ages: Delaware Sports League and Philadelphia Area Disc Alliance (PADA)—Delaware satellite league.

“People are starting to discover that health and wellness are vitally important within our daily lives,” says Bob Downing, co-founder and owner of Delaware Sports League, headquartered in Wilmington.

“There has been a renaissance of thinking, specifically with young professionals, who realize that how we spend our time with ourselves and others is extremely important to our well-being.”

The league creates a less intensive exercise environment for people that’s accessible to every person, not just athletes. Says Downing: “We’ve evolved quite a bit over the years. In 2018, we are refocusing our mission on pairing physical and mental wellness together.” 

For those looking for a new challenge (or sport), there’s also PADA. Founded in 1985, PADA provides “opportunities to learn, teach and play Ultimate (frisbee) while fostering community, character and competition within the greater Philadelphia region.”

In Delaware, PADA provides opportunities for nearly 300 players per year and—since a key feature is its inclusiveness—it always welcomes new players. The league attempts to ensure that teams are “fair and balanced to create a fun and competitive environment,” says Andrew Wisor, PADA Delaware council member of the Philadelphia-based association.

If you’re interested in joining, Wisor suggests the spring league. “It tends to be the most beginner-friendly league because it’s when we get the most new players joining. There’s always a lot of teaching going on, both on and off the fields, from captains and players alike.”

Fitness at Your Fingertips

Too busy for the gym?  Maybe fitness apps are for you. They allow you to view videos anywhere—phone, smart TV or computer—making working out easy, fast and convenient for those always on the go.

Fitness Blender, for instance, provides “workout videos for every fitness level—absolutely free.” It’s an ideal solution for the workout beginner or those who may be intimidated by the meatheads at their local gym.

There’s also Daily Burn, a free, 30-day trial app that reverts to an affordable monthly paid plan for those eager for a more tailored plan led by professional trainers.

Clean Eating

In addition to exercise, clean eating is essential to a healthy lifestyle. Clean eating follows a simple list of tenets: eat less refined foods (no donuts and bagels!), eat more whole foods (produce, grains, etc.), eat less meat and limit sugar and salt intake. BBC’s Good Food predicts that this year veganism and plant-based proteins will be the trendy options at your local restaurant or grocer.

Karen Igou, owner and operator of Delaware Local Food Exchange, has been a leader in the clean eating movement from her store in Trolley Square.

“People know the basics to clean eating,” she says. “It follows what our mothers and grandmothers taught us. However, [clean eating] is not easy. Most of the focus is on healthcare (the results) and less on eating quality food [to begin with],” says Igou.

Delaware Local Food Exchange provides a bountiful selection of local produce, snacks, sundries and meat. Igou sources the highest quality meat and vegetable-based proteins for her customers and in-house prepared foods. Most popular is the grass-fed chicken salad, which can sell out within hours after it goes on sale.

Says Igou, “I’ve noticed a lot of customers going vegan for both the environmental and the health benefits. To meet demand, we stock fun vegan choices like enchilada pie, tempeh chicken salad and lentil loaf.”

In addition to clean eating, Igou says that her “typical fitness routine—yoga, meditation, core strengthening exercises, and a gratitude journal”—keeps her healthy.

While you might opt to skip the gratitude journal, you have plenty of options to choose from as you plan your 2018 fitness regimen. Join a gym, hire a personal trainer, or take a brisk walk. Just remember to eat well and move around a lot.

Giving the Gift of Experience

Some creative ideas for every personality type on your holiday list

This holiday season, let’s be a little more creative in our gift-giving. Instead of buying essentially inconsequential things, let’s think about creating memories. Here’s a list of fun, local experiences that the various personality types in your life will be sure to remember.

For the Art Enthusiast

Painting with a Twist has taken Delaware by storm with its mantra: Sip. Paint. Relax. Four locations in New Castle County offer a fun night out with step-by-step painting instruction from local artist instructors. Classes include all materials—easel, paint, and mat—as well as complimentary adult beverages and soda.

In addition to its typical lineup, Painting with a Twist Wilmington owners Stephanie and Jay Pomante host two recurring special events—Paint Your Own Pet (PYOP) and Painting with a Purpose.

PYOP allows you to submit a quality picture of your dog or cat (or other pet) to have it pre-sketched on your canvas by one of the instructors before you arrive to the class.

Bi-monthly Painting with a Purpose classes raise funds—50 percent of the sales—for a specific nonprofit organization. The 2018 February and March recipients will be, respectively, the Pennsville Community Arts Center and the Alzheimer’s Association.

1812 Marsh Rd., #409, Wilmington, 746-2907, paintingwithatwist.com.

For the Nature Lover

Longwood Gardens is “anything but dreary” during the winter months, says Patricia Evans, communication manager. New next year, in tandem with its Winter Blues Festival (to be held in March), Longwood will have blue flowering plants throughout the main conservatory.

“It will be filled with plants like poppies, hydrangea, cornelius,” says Evans. “The Conservatory will be a picture-perfect setting for amateur and professional photographers.”

In addition, there will be blue-inspired workshops and lectures like “Fabric to Dye For,” where participants will be able to make their own indigo dye vat.

Evans recommends purchasing a membership to save on food and classes. The best part about membership levels two and above is that “you can be flexible in who you want to bring to visit the Gardens,” says Evans. So bring your mom, dad, friend or significant other with you as you explore the great outdoors, indoors.

1001 Longwood Rd., Kennett Square, Pa., 610-388-1000, longwoodgardens.org

For the Handy(wo)man

NextFab’s Woodshop. Photo courtesy of NextFab

NextFab is Wilmington’s newest makerspace, where artists, woodworking enthusiasts, computer whizzes and entrepreneurs can learn, grow and make things. Located in the West Center City neighborhood of Wilmington aptly named the “Creative District,” the third NextFab (there are two in Philadelphia) occupies 10,000 square feet in a former photography studio.

Says Laate Olukotun, director of marketing: “November and December are the busiest times in the space because people (members) are making gifts for their family and friends.”

Plus, to get you into the holiday spirit, NextFab will offer “…a handful of holiday workshops like ‘Make Your Own Electric Snowflake,’ where you will solder and work with circuit boards,” says Olukotun. This class is open to members and non-members ages 10 and up.

In addition, new this year, NextFab will offer four woodworking class (gift) packs, which will include a fully guided experience through a series of discounted classes and include a NextFab membership. Here are the options:

$50 – Make Your Own Cutting Board
Pilot Membership:
• Access to classes for one month
Included classes:
• Orientation
• Shop Safety
• Wood Preparation

$150 – Learning the Lathe
Pilot Membership:
• Access to classes for one month
Included Classes:
• Orientation
• Shop Safety
• Intro to Lathe
• Bowl Turning

$250 – Woodworking Foundations
Community Membership:
• Three days/month for two months
Included Classes:
• Orientation
• Shop Safety
• Wood Preparation
• Table Saw
• Finishing Basics
• Hand Tool Basics

$500 – Complete Techniques
Community Membership:
• Three days/month for four months
Included Classes:
• Orientation
• Shop Safety
• Wood Preparation
• Table Saw
• Finishing Basics
• Hand Tool Basics
• Intro to Lathe
• Bowl Turning

503 N. Tatnall St., Wilmington, 477-7330, nextfab.com

For the Sports Fan

The 2018 Wilmington Blue Rocks offer entertaining minor league baseball. Instead of splurging for full or half-season packages, try one of the more affordable Mini Plans. There are three packages: 6, 9 or 12 games; day of the week, and the flex plan. All Mini Plan holders receive: A member gift (next year will be a Blue Rocks cap), an invitation to the member appreciation picnic on July 24, tickets to fireworks or giveaway games, and a flexible ticket exchange policy (and much more). In addition to those holder benefits, “each plan provides customers with a dedicated sales representative,” says Stefani Rash, director of ticket sales.

If the Mini Plan is not enough, give a full-season plan so your recipient not only receives a commemorative booklet, but also a plaque with his or her name on their season seat.

801 Shipyard Dr., Wilmington, 888-2015, milb.com.

For the Aspiring Writer

Have a budding writer in the family? Whether they’re bloggers, poets, fiction or nonfiction writers, the 2018 Bay to Ocean Writers Conference hosted by the Eastern Shore Writers Association has something for them. The Saturday, March 10, conference at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, Md., will have hands-on learning workshops focused on the “craft of writing,” specific genres, publishing and marketing, and social media for writers. The keynote speaker will be critically acclaimed author Christopher Tilghman, author of five novels who teaches at the University of Virginia.

Register by the end of the year for the early-bird price of $95. Regular price is $120 for non-members; $95 for members; and $55 for students with valid ID. The registration cost includes continental breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and all sessions, including the keynote.

Chesapeake College: 100 College Circle, Wye Mills, Md., easternshorewriters@gmail.com, easternshorewriters.org.

For the Beer and Wine Aficionado

The Dogfish Head From Grain to Glass two-hour tour leads you through off-limit parts of the brewery for a more in-depth look at the brewing and distilling process. The tour costs $30 per person with a maximum tour capacity of 20, so register early. In addition to the beer and cocktail tastings, you’ll walk away with Dogfish Head pint and shot glasses.

During the off-months, tour times may vary, so call ahead to ensure tour start times. Tours are booked on a first-come, first-served basis and are for those 21 or older.
6 Cannery Village Center, Milford, 888-dogfish, dogfish.com.

Total Wine & More offers more than just libations and gifts. It also hosts various beer, wine and spirits classes for the serious enthusiast at its Claymont location on Naamans Road. Topics range from introductory wine classes to an advanced class focused on refining one’s palette (I hear Super Tuscan wines are quite fine). Total Wine & More also arranges private wine or beer classes for a minimum of 14 attendees up to the capacity for the room. Visit their website for a list of upcoming classes.
Northtowne Plaza, 691 Naamans Rd., Claymont, 792-1322, totalwine.com.

For the Rock Fan

Firefly 2018 pre-sale passes are now sold out, so why not head to Wilmington’s darling theater, The Queen. Now managed by Live Nation, The Queen has “turned it up to 11” with its rock-heavy lineup thanks in part to Talent Buyer Christianna LaBuz, who has brought more regionally and nationally known acts to the historic venue. Here’s a short list of notable upcoming performances:

February: The Wailers (2/8); Less than Jake (2/16);
Blues Traveler (2/22)

March: Anders Osborne (3/15); Drive-By Truckers (3/28)

Still interested in attending Firefly? It will be held at Dover International Speedway on June 14-17, 2018.
Or if your recipient loves all types of music genres, consider a digital music subscription to one of the popular streaming sites like Spotify, Pandora or Apple Music for an on-demand, ad-free experience.
Firefly: 1131 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 855-281-4898 (ticket support), fireflyfestival.com.

The Queen: 500 N. Market St., Wilmington, 730-3331, thequeenwilmington.com.

For the Athlete

Open from late November through February, the Riverfront Rink is the perfect place to bring the family or your significant other for a leisurely skate. The ice rink holds up to 350 guests and admission is only $8 for adults and $5 for children. Skates can be rented for $3 per person. Open skate is available Monday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m. and skate sessions (1.5 hours minimum) are in effect Friday through Sunday at times posted on the website. The Riverfront Rink will be open through March 4, 2018. If you’re feeling extra generous this holiday season, the rink can be rented for private parties for 150 guests starting at $2,500.

308 Justison St., Wilmington, 650-2336, riverfrontrink.com.

For the Home Cook
(who takes pictures of all their food for Instagram)

Delaware Technical Community College (DTCC) offers a wide range of personal enrichment courses for those who want to expand their knowledge or technical abilities. All courses are hands-on and led by a strong network of adjunct instructors.

“This spring, there will be a range of culinary classes including vegan cooking, dumplings and tapas, samosas and flatbreads, and sushi,” says Lisa C. Hastings-Sheppard, senior special programs director in the Office of Workforce Development and Community Education.

In addition to its culinary classes, says Hastings-Sheppard, “we offer three photography courses—introductory, intermediate and advance—which allow budding photographers to learn about technique, composition and most of all, how to capture a great shot.”

And to complement all the photos you’ll be taking, DTCC will provide a Photoshop class, where individuals can learn how to enhance and edit their work. The DTCC Continuing Education spring course catalog will be out soon, so make sure to check your mailbox.

George Campus, 300 N. Orange St., Wilmington, 830-5200; Stanton Campus, 400 Stanton-Christiana Rd., Newark; 454-3956, dtcc.edu.

Get in Line for CP Furniture

Executive Director Andrew McKnight says the furniture is all handmade and of the best quality. Photo courtesy of CP Furniture

Offshoot of nonprofit Challenge Program offers standardized but distinctive pieces, appealing to more residential and commercial clients

Trainees of the Challenge Program—a Wilmington-based nonprofit that provides construction and life-skills training for Delaware’s at-risk youth—are known for creating custom pieces for area establishments. Think honeygrow, the bar tops at all Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen locations, other local restaurants and some Philadelphia companies.

Now, helmed by founder and Executive Director Andrew McKnight, the organization is entering a new phase with an offshoot program called CP Furniture. Distinctive, handcrafted pieces are being standardized and incorporated into this new furniture line, opening the door for residential and commercial clients—and more clients in general—verses the custom piece approach.

“We decided that with a line of furniture, focusing more on manufacturing and less on custom work, we could better utilize our workforce and increase margins and profits,” says McKnight, who explains that all profits will go directly back into the Challenge Program.

By standardizing design, CP Furniture can bring in graduates of the six-month Challenge Program and offer them fulltime positions with benefits. McKnight describes a CP Furniture position as a transition job from the Challenge Program into entry level outside employment.

McKnight says the CP Furniture pieces are premium quality, so customers can expect a higher price point (Prices were not available at O&A press time). Depending on the piece, the furniture is made with custom fabric, hand-tied springs—all handmade and of the best quality, he says.

Right now, he’s focusing on the Mid-Atlantic region, but in the future, national orders aren’t out of the question. Visit cpfurniture.org to see options like sit-stand desks for the office or at home, tables, seating—like the contemporary Lillian Chair available in walnut, cherry, oak, birch and maple—entertainment consoles, side tables and more.

“I hope we do better than break-even,” says McKnight. “I hope we become a thing. We’re manufacturing furniture, employing significantly more grads. We want to create a buzz around it and market it and make money to put back into program.”

Happenings This Fall

Do the season right with these autumnal events!

Steamin’ Days at Auburn Heights
The Marshall Steam Museum
3000 Creek Rd., Yorklyn
First Sunday of the month through November
Auburnheights.org
Climb into an antique automobile or board one of the trains and experience what it was like to travel at the turn of the 20th century. Another option is touring the 1897 mansion that was home to three generations of the Marshall family. General admission is $8 for ages 12 and under, $10 for 13 and up, and free for Friends of Auburn Heights Preserve members.

Corn Maze & Fall Fun
Ramsey’s Farm
330 Ramsey Rd., Wilmington
Ramseysfarm.com
Embrace the fun of fall with the corn maze, sorghum maze, hay maze, pumpkin painting, hayrides, and more this month.

Kalmar Nyckel Adventures
Various October dates
Wilmington & Historic New Castle
Kalmarnyckel.org
Set sail on the Kalmar Nyckel in October for day sails, private sails, tours, or river cruises, setting off from multiple locations, including Wilmington and Historic New Castle.

Fort Delaware Ghost Tours
Pea Patch Island, Delaware City
Various October dates
destateparks.com
For three hours, participate in an actual paranormal investigation of Pea Patch Island’s Fort Delaware. All departures are on the ferry from Delaware City at 45 Clinton St. Admission is $50 per person.

Milburn Orchards
1495 Appleton Rd., Elkton, Md.
October through November
Milburnorchards.com
Milburn Orchards is the place to go for hayrides, a corn maze, farmyard playground, tractor tunnel, straw jump, and more. Admission is $5-$10, and free for ages 2 and below.

Harvest Moon Festival
Coverdale Farm Preserve
543 Way Rd., Greenville
Saturday, Oct. 7, and Sunday, Oct. 8; 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Delawarenaturesociety.org
This fall festival, located at the scenic Coverdale Farm Preserve, features fun activities for all ages with hayrides, live music, food trucks, artisan demonstrations, and children’s activities. The festival is free for all members and $7 for non-members over the age of five. 

Grainfest 2017
Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen
270 E. Main St., Newark
Saturday, Oct. 7; 12 p.m.
meetatgrain.com/grainfest
The second annual Grainfest will include more than 20 breweries, live music, food trucks, kids’ activities, live music provided by five bands, and more. Beers will be available as half pours ($3) or full pours ($6). Wine will also be available. Advanced admission is $12; $15 at the door. ?

Vendemmia da Vinci
Wine and Food Festival
Bellevue State Park
800 Carr Rd., Wilmington
Sunday, Oct. 8; 2-6 p.m.
Societadavinci.org
Dedicated to promoting the Italian-American heritage, the Da Vinci Society helps families in need, provides educational grants, supports cultural events and institutions within the community and throws one heck of a fall event. At the 14th annual Vendemmia celebration, guests can sample Italian wines and food, visit the Italian Beer Garden, listen to live entertainment, participate in a silent auction and handcrafted wine and homemade gravy contests, and more. Admission is $55 in advance and $60 at the gate.

The Ultimate Tailgate
Sheraton Wilmington South
365 Airport Rd., New Castle
Thursday, Oct. 12; 6-9 p.m.
Mealsonwheelsde.org
The Ultimate Tailgate fundraiser benefiting Meals On Wheels Delaware will include wine, spirits, and craft beer from 2SP Brewing Co. as well as area restaurants’ unique interpretations of tailgate food. Guests will enjoy live entertainment, a silent auction, tailgate-themed games, and a beer/wine toss. Tickets cost $65 per person and should be purchased online.

Musikarmageddon Finale
the baby grand
818 N Market St., Wilmington
Saturday, Oct. 14; 8 p.m.
Outandaboutnow.com/musikarmageddon
Local acts Rusty Blue, Carrier, Cologne and TreeWalker are the four finalists of this year’s Musikarmageddon battle of the bands. The finale will determine the 2017 championship.

DTC Wine Feast & Auction
Sponsored by Delaware Theatre Company
At Delaware Art Museum
2310 Kentmere Pkwy., Wilmington
Saturday, Oct. 14; 6-9:30 p.m.
Delawaretheatre.org
The 25th annual Wine Feast & Auction will include 500 food and wine aficionados from New York City to Washington, D.C. Proceeds go to providing artistic education and community engagement programs, as well as serving 35,000 theatergoers and 5,000 children throughout the state. Tickets are $100 through Oct. 1, and $125 after, though admission is $75 for people 35 years old and younger. Patron ticket: $250.

Delaware Wine & Beer Festival
Delaware State Fair Grounds
18500 S. Dupont Hwy., Harrington
Saturday, Oct. 14; 12-5 p.m.
Visitdelawarevillages.com
The Delaware Wine and Beer Festival is the First State’s “official” wine and beer festival, and still the only one that features all of Delaware’s breweries, wineries and distilleries in one location. The festival includes music, games, performers, DJs, and access to various local eateries featuring gourmet foods and Delaware specialties. Guests must be 21 or older. Admission is $10-$40.

October Free Writes
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Pkwy., Wilmington
Thursday, Oct. 19, and Sunday, Oct. 29; 6:30-8 p.m.
Delart.org
Visit the galleries and explore a topic or idea through writing inspired by prompts. These informal gatherings allow participants of all experience levels to write with the hope of unearthing new materials and perspectives. No writing experience is required and advanced registration is recommended. Author Dennis Lawson will lead a mystery and crime themed free write on Thursday, Oct. 19, followed by a horror free write with Jessa Mendez on Sunday, Oct. 29.

Boo at the Zoo
Brandywine Zoo
1001 N Park Dr., Wilmington
Friday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 21; 5-7 p.m.
Brandywinezoo.org
Trick-or-treat and celebrate Halloween Brandywine Zoo-style with this merry, not scary, event. Here, kids can trick-or-treat in their Halloween costumes through the zoo as it gets dark.

Halloween Blue Jean Ball
Food Bank of Delaware
222 Lake Dr., Newark
Saturday, Oct. 21; 6:30-10:30 p.m.
Fbdbluejeanball.org
The Food Bank of Delaware’s 12th annual Blue Jean Ball will feature a small plate menu prepared by students from the Food Bank’s Culinary School as well as Iron Hill Brewery’s chefs. Admission is $75 per person, which includes unlimited beer and wine, food from Iron Hill Brewery, live entertainment from Mike Hines and The Look, and a commemorative beer mug. Tables of 10 are available for $750.

Movies on Tap
Penn Cinema
401 S. Madison St., Wilmington
Thursday, Oct. 26, and Friday, Nov. 17
Premierwinespirits.com
On Thursday, Oct. 26, watch Young Frankenstein while enjoying brews from Argilla Brewing Company—all for a good cause. The viewing benefits Alex’s Lemonade Stand. And don’t miss Planes, Trains and Automobiles while sampling what Yards Brewing has to offer on Friday, Nov. 17.

Jack O’Lantern Jamboree
Gateway Garden Center
7277 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin
Friday, Oct. 27
Gatewaygardens.com
Bring your pre-carved pumpkins to the sixth annual Jack O’Lantern Jamboree, a free family-friendly walk through, and expect to see upwards of 70 carved pumpkins. Contact Gateway Garden Center in advance to save a place for your pumpkin.

Beers & Gears
Delaware Park
777 Delaware Park Blvd., Wilmington
Saturday, Oct. 28; 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Delawarepark.com
This car show includes rat rods, muscles, exotics, hot rods, turners, pro street, imports, trucks and classics. More than 450 trophies will be awarded during this family-friendly event, free for spectators, with live music and DJs.

Halloween Loop
Downtown Wilmington
Saturday, Oct. 28
Outandaboutnow.com
Featuring 13 local restaurants, pubs and bars, the 37th annual Halloween Loop is an extravaganza for guests to dress up in the spirit of the holiday. There is no official starting point. Select the nightspot you’d like to visit first, pay the cover charge, and you will receive a wristband that gains you admission to all other Loop venues without paying another cover.

Urban Bike Project
Fall Crisp Classic
Bellevue State Park, Wilmington
Saturday, Nov. 4; 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Urbanbikeproject.com
This autumnal bicycle ride begins and ends at Bellevue, with eight-mile or 12-mile riding options for riders. An after party at the finish line in Bellevue State Park is sponsored by Dogfish Head Brewery. Tickets are $30 with $15 non-rider tickets available for those who would just like to join the festivities at the finish. It’s $20 to sponsor an Urban Bike Project youth rider.   

Storied Past, Spirited Future

The cemetery, off Delaware Avenue, is the resting place for several historic figures. Photo courtesy of the Wilmington & Brandywine Cemetery

The Eternal Rest 5K Run/Walk aims to keep the Wilmington & Brandywine Cemetery alive

The Wilmington & Brandywine Cemetery, at 701 Delaware Ave., was perhaps ahead of its time almost 200 years ago for more than one reason. Founded in 1843 by prominent Delawarean Sam Wollaston, the Wilmington & Brandywine became one of Delaware’s first non-sectarian cemeteries, allowing the burial of anyone, regardless of religious affiliation. It’s also one of the state’s oldest, most historic cemeteries.

In the mid-19th century, like many other cities established in earlier times, when burial grounds were situated next to churches, Wilmington found itself short of space for graves. So Wollaston decided to create a cemetery on 10 acres just outside Wilmington (the cemetery has been expanded to 25 acres over time).

His tract lay along Kennett Turnpike (Delaware Avenue) where it met the Old King’s Highway (Adams Street). Wollaston invited several leading citizens to invest in his venture, which turned out to be a lasting success.

The founders incorporated the cemetery in 1845 and engaged engineer George Read Riddle to divide the plots and lay out curving paths and hillside terraces. His design included an elegant entrance road and gently sweeping side avenues named for trees and famous Americans.

It’s the resting place of some of Delaware’s—and the country’s —historic figures, particularly of the military variety. Among the 21,000 eternal residents are Maj. Gen. Thomas A. Smyth, the last Union general to be killed in the Civil War, along with Dr. James Tilton, a Revolutionary War hero, member of the Continental Congress and surgeon general of the U.S. Army in the War of 1812, and Commodore Jacob Jones, a hero of the War of 1812. Wilmington’s first mayor, Richard H. Bayard, is also buried there.

At one point, the cemetery even became a favorite location for a Sunday stroll for wealthy city residents. Board President Cory Porter says the tradition was probably a lot less morbid than it sounds: “I think the number of prominent families interred there as well as the sheer beauty of the property was the main reason” for the afternoon ambles.

Even today the living are drawn to the location, which has been host to the Eternal Rest 5K Run/Walk for the past three years.

“The 5K really stemmed from a good idea on raising money for the perpetual care of the cemetery, as well as raising awareness of the historical significance of the cemetery,” says Porter.

The fourth annual event will begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14. The idea came from runner and cemetery up-keep volunteer Cathy Haslinsky, who notes the importance of fundraising. “The gates are opened daily and people are welcome to enjoy the beautiful historic cemetery,” Haslinsky says.

The 5k starts on Jefferson Street in front of the Roxana Canon Arsht Surgicenter. Part of the race takes participants into the cemetery, then through Brandywine Park, with a finish line in the lower section of the cemetery. Participants then walk or run uphill through the cemetery and back to the Surgicenter parking lot for an after party that includes El Diablo burritos, craft beer, wine and soda.

Through corporate sponsorships and race fees, the 5k committee and cemetery board members have raised more than $77,000 for cemetery maintenance the last three years.

Pre-register for the race at delawaretiming.com. Fees are $25 in advance or $30 at the race. Day-of registration begins at 3 p.m. Participants are encouraged to wear Halloween costumes.

Worth Recognizing: Community Members Who Go Above & Beyond

Aurora Colin: Preserving Mexican culture through dance

Growing up in Mexico, Aurora Colin discovered her love of dancing at age 12. Performing in front of large crowds, she would twirl her colorful, layered red dress while her black shoes stomped to the rhythms of “El Jarabe Tapatio,” or, as it’s known in the U.S., “The Mexican Hat Dance.”

Now 44, Colin is still dancing. In 2014, she and Teresa Ayala founded Ballet Folklórico Mexico Lindo to stay in touch with the songs and culture of Mexico. The group started with six children and eight adults, and now numbers 47 people, ages 4 to 60.

The group gives Hispanic youth and their families a positive, creative outlet. They average about 30 performances a year at local churches, festivals, schools, and private parties, and have also performed in New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey. The group relies on donations from performances to help families purchase costumes, accessories, and dresses directly from Mexico.

Colin is an instructor as well as a dancer in the group. She studied dance at the Escuela Bellas Artes in Mexico City and performed throughout Mexico. She also worked as a school teacher in Mexico before moving to Delaware 15 years ago with her husband and her son. For the past 10 years, she has worked as a nanny in Wilmington, where she lives. Colin also offers free two-hour dance lessons every Wednesday and Friday at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Wilmington.

Her son, Miguel, was a member of Folklórico Mexico Lindo before he moved to New York City to study political science at Columbia University. Her husband, Marco, is the group’s DJ.

Last year, the Delaware Hispanic Awards recognized Ballet Folklórico as the best folklórico dance group in Delaware.

Worth Recognizing: Community Members Who Go Above & Beyond

Margaret Rivera: Helping Latino youths to aspire

When she was 17, Margaret Rivera volunteered to help a homebound child who was paralyzed from the neck down. Rivera massaged her hands, her feet, told her about school and read to her. More than five decades later, Rivera is still volunteering.

“It’s in my DNA,” says the Wilmington resident. “When growing up, I saw the challenges people have and I thought about how I can turn it around to help them solve it.”

Rivera, who retired last year from AstraZeneca as manager of Affirmative Action and EEO Compliance, received the 2013 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award for Education, the 2010 AstraZeneca Jefferson Award for Public Services and the 2007 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award for social/justice/advocacy.

The native of New Jersey is a founding member of ASPIRA of Delaware, a non-profit organization that helps Latino students move beyond a high school education to college. She also helped start Las Americas ASPIRA Academy Charter School, the first dual language school in Delaware. The K-8 school in Newark opened in 2011 with more than 300 students. (In Spanish, aspira means to aspire.) The national organization originated in New York in 1961.

Without ASPIRA, many students would not know what educational and financial options are available to them, Rivera says. She joined ASPIRA in 2003 when the Delaware organization was known as Friends of ASPIRA. Many Latino youths in the state were not pursuing college at all at that time, she says.

Due in part to ASPIRA, the dropout rate of Latino students is declining. According to the Delaware Department of Education, it went from 3.2 percent in the 2014-2015 school year to 2.2 percent in 2015-2016.

“I would not be where I am if it were not for Margaret Rivera,” says Maria Velasquez. Before meeting Rivera, the 27-year-old, who now lives in Philadelphia, never imagined attending an Ivy League university. Today she is a first-year MBA student at the University of Pennsylvania. “Margie encouraged me to apply,” she says.

To maximize its efforts, ASPIRA’s collaborators include community volunteers and institutions such as the Latin American Community Center, Girls Inc., Del Tech Community College and United Way.

Rivera remains on the ASPIRA board and volunteers as chair of the Development and Communications Committee. And she is still an advisor to students in the Saturday Academy program.

Labor of Love

Maria Perdikis and her daughter, Petula, worked long shifts to keep the diner afloat.

She no longer puts in 18-hour shifts, but Maria Perdikis still works the grill at her restaurant, a Newport landmark for 35 years

The Original Newport Restaurant is celebrating 35 years in Delaware, but it can trace it origins to 1963 and Toronto, Canada. That’s when and where 17-year-old Maria Ricci, her mother and brother immigrated from Pisterzo, Italy. Her father had passed away 10 years prior, and Maria became the family breadwinner. She began working two jobs, as a dishwasher and a factory worker making lingerie, for a total of $7 a day.

Two years later, she married Sam Perdikis, a Greek immigrant. They soon had a daughter, Petula, and moved to the United States. Packing everything they had into their car, they moved in with Sam’s sister in Wilmington for two months. Sam eventually found work at the Hotel du Pont, while Maria stayed home to raise Petula. After a few years, she went to work at Strawbridge & Clothier at the Merchandise Mart in Wilmington, and they bought a home in Edgemoor Terrace.

Maria Perdikis says she is "blessed" to be where she is today.
Maria Perdikis says she is “blessed” to be where she is today. Photo Anthony Santoro

After 15 years in the U.S., they decided to sell the house and move back to Toronto to be with their families. But Sam struggled to find a job, they had to live in a small apartment, and within a year they moved back to the States in North Wilmington. That’s when a friend informed them about a little diner down the street from them that was for sale.

The couple sold their house and put their life savings into the restaurant, naming it The Newport Plaza Family Restaurant. Tragically, Sam passed away from a heart attack soon after, leaving Maria and her daughter, who was now in college, to run the restaurant by themselves. This meant that whenever employees backed out of working their shifts, Maria had to cover for them. She worked the grill, waited tables, and cleaned up after closing time.

“Sometimes,” Perdikis says, “Petula and I would be crying together, because we had to make it. I didn’t want to close.” Some days they both worked 16-18-hour shifts, even while Petula was taking a full course load at West Chester University. (She went on Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., for her masters in music performance.)

In 1994, when the lease came up for the diner, Perdikis decided she wanted to move down the street a quarter of a mile to 601 W. Newport Pike, where The Original Newport Restaurant stands today. The larger location enabled her to expand the restaurant and accommodate more customers, many of whom followed her from the old location. Among her customers are former Vice President Joe Biden, along with governors and other public officials. Singer Johnny Mathis has even stopped at the diner.

And no wonder. The restaurant has a solid reputation for tasty, ample and affordable (cash only, no credit cards) food. Breakfast is served all day, and includes the usual bacon and eggs and pancakes as well as a western omelet with salsa on the side. Chicken and dumplings is the diner’s most famous dish. Perdikis makes her own crab cakes with lump meat, chicken croquettes, rice pudding, and bread pudding. Cole slaw, potato salad and chili are other popular choices.

There is a family atmosphere at the restaurant, and that applies to the staff as well as the customers. Perdikis, a petite, shy woman with an Italian accent, prefers to be behind the grill, but she also loves to interact with her customers and be certain they are satisfied with the food and the service. She still has goals, including being named in the breakfast category on The Best of Delaware list, the annual awards bestowed by Delaware Today and its readers.

Reflecting on more than three decades in business and the life she has forged for herself, Maria Perdikis is grateful. She remains close to her daughter and her granddaughter, Luciana, 14, and her restaurant is thriving.

“I appreciate everything that my people did for me, my customers and my employees,” she says. “I appreciate America and what it did for me. I worked really, really hard to be where I stand, and I appreciate everything, because I didn’t have anything. I’m so blessed to be here today.”

New Kids On the Block

Says one parent: "Every student seems engaged." Photo Joe del Tufo

Opened in 2014, First State Montessori Academy is growing its enrollment, adding two grades, and finding its downtown location an advantage

Creating a new school can be a bit like completing a jigsaw puzzle. It requires vision to put the pieces together properly.

As it prepares to start its fourth year of operation in downtown Wilmington, the First State Montessori Academy is seeing all its pieces fit nicely.

Enrollment should top 500 students this year as the school adds a seventh-grade class, and could grow to 660 in the fall of 2018 when an eighth grade is added. The school received more than 600 applications for 91 open seats this year, so its waiting list has more than 500 names.
They must be doing something right.

“Every time I go into the school, I’m in awe,” says Meredith Rosenthal, whose son and daughter attend the school. “Every student seems engaged. You can see them engrossed in their learning, working together.”

As Rosenthal sees it, the school’s board of directors and staff adhere to a very basic principle: “They only do things if they know they’re going to do it well.”

That started in 2009, when the leaders of several private Montessori schools in New Castle County began meeting to develop a plan to bring Montessori education into a public school setting. An application filed that year with the state Department of Education’s Charter School Office did not win approval, but the group expanded its membership, refined its proposal and submitted a successful application in 2012 to open a new charter school. (A charter school is a public school, funded primarily by state and local tax dollars, but it is operated by a board of directors, not a local board of education, and is not subject to all the same rules and regulations as traditional public schools.) As originally planned, the school would open in the fall of 2013 with 241 students in kindergarten through sixth grade and grow to 325 students in its fourth year.

“We just did it one step at a time,” says Yvonne Nass, president of the school’s board of directors.
Preparing a charter school application is no mean achievement. The completed document totaled 635 pages, with details about curriculum, finances, discipline policies, health and safety, and the qualifications of the board members and staff.

Head of School Courtney Fox is a former first-grade teacher in the Brandywine School District and Delaware’s Teacher of the Year in 2008. Photo Joe del Tufo
Head of School Courtney Fox is a former first-grade teacher in the Brandywine School District and Delaware’s Teacher of the Year in 2008. Photo Joe del Tufo

But that was just the beginning. As has been the case with many new charters in Delaware, it took First State an extra year to open, partly because of difficulty finding a suitable building.

“We looked all over New Castle County,” says Courtney Fox, the head of school, a first-grade teacher for 15 years in the Brandywine School District and Delaware’s Teacher of the Year in 2008. “Old school buildings were not available. We looked at a lot of empty office space.”

They applied for space in the Community Education Building, the former MBNA/Bank of America office building acquired through the Longwood Foundation and retrofitted with the goal of housing up to four charter schools dedicated to meeting the educational needs of Wilmington’s low-income students.

The application wasn’t approved. “The schools that were accepted had in their mission statement that they would serve certain communities,” Fox explains. “Our mission was to serve a variety of communities.”

The Right Place and Space

As it turned out, First State would settle in another surplus MBNA/Bank of America structure, a former corporate childcare center at 920 French St., just two blocks south of the Community Education Building. “It was the right size, the right space, with the right amenities,” Fox says.
“The kids could move about, there were large hallways, the rooms had observation windows,” Nass adds. “We decided that it was our spot.”

And, since it was built as a daycare center, it didn’t require much retrofitting.
But there was one hitch. First State made an offer to buy the building, but the Buccini/Pollin group put in a higher bid. So First State wound up as BPG’s tenant.

First State faced two other significant start-up hurdles: ensuring that the Montessori curriculum would cover all the items in the Common Core standards recently adopted by Delaware (and many other states) and recruiting teachers trained in Montessori methods.
“Common Core tells us what to cover. We modify our content to fit lesson planning and methods,” Fox says.

“It wasn’t that hard,” says Liz Madden, a 17-year Montessori veteran and the school’s director of education. “The Common Core standards are more challenging, more rigorous, but Common Core doesn’t dictate how you teach something.”

Montessori educators require special certification beyond meeting the standards for a state teaching license. The certification involves taking a seven-week summer course and a series of projects that are completed while working in a Montessori classroom.

“A couple of our teachers live downtown, and a couple live an hour away,” Fox says. “Because there are fewer certified Montessori teachers, we have to cast our net wider.”

Hiring hasn’t been a big problem, Fox says, partly because teacher salaries at First State, while slightly below the range for teachers with comparable experience in traditional public schools, are higher than those offered at most private Montessori schools in the region.

Mary Falkenberg, who had spent 12 years teaching third grade in the Colonial School District, joined the First State staff last year after spending the summer taking her Montessori training. This summer, she says, she has to turn in the papers she completed during the school year and take a final exam for certification.

As with private Montessori schools, First State uses multi-age grouping, with kindergarten and first-grade students together, then second and third grade, then fourth through sixth.

Two Teachers Per Classroom

Each classroom has two teachers and there’s a Montessori-certified teacher in each one, Fox says.
Having two teachers working together makes a huge difference, Falkenberg says. “If I give a lesson and a student is struggling with it, he or she can go to the other teacher for additional support.”
The arrangement also allows teachers to play off each other’s strengths, she says. “I was more science, my co-teacher was more artistic. I love teaching third grade writing with essays, and she likes phonics and decoding.”

While Montessori teachers spend plenty of time instructing, students do a lot on their own, following weekly “work plans” designed by their teachers and based on their needs. A morning meeting starts the day, which includes some group instruction and special classes like art and music. But the biggest chunks are a pair of two-hour blocks during which students work on their own without interruption.

Look around a classroom and you’ll see some students reading quietly, others collaborating on a group project, and some using blocks or other materials as they work out their math lesson. “If a couple of kids want to do something at the same time, they have to learn to share, or to wait and check in later. They have to figure out a plan for how to get it done,” Fox says.

The biggest difference between a traditional school and Montessori is how students build their sense of independence, Falkenberg says.

“They have their own work places. Kids have more freedom in choosing their own work. Some will pick their favorite subject and work on it first. Others will save the best for last,” she says. No matter how they set up their agenda, “they get so excited at the end of them, saying, ‘I completed my work plan. I got all my work done.’”

Staying with the same teacher and classmates for two or more years benefits young students, Rosenthal says, because “unbelievable relationships are developed, both student-to-student and student-to-teacher.”

Rosenthal relates another positive she has noticed with her son Max, who just completed sixth grade. “Watching him in grades four through six, he really matured,” she says. “He felt responsible for the younger kids in the classroom. He became a mentor and a role model.”

Max’s maturation in the Montessori environment is one reason he is staying at First State, rather than transferring into a middle school in the Brandywine district, as the school adds seventh and eighth grades, his mother says.

Adding the two grades was an instance of a problem becoming an opportunity.
In the school’s first two years, Fox explains, it was losing students who would have entered sixth grade, largely because parents felt their children would be more comfortable moving into a middle school, which typically serves grades 6-8, for sixth grade rather than for seventh grade.

First State contemplated dropping back to a K-5 structure, but a survey of parents indicated that most would keep their children at First State if grades seven and eight were added.

In the fall of 2015, the school forged ahead with that plan, but had to find a second building to house the additional students. At about the same time, the Delaware MET, a charter high school that had just opened across the street from First State, failed. Due to a series of management, curriculum and discipline issues, the state ordered Delaware MET to close at the end of its first semester. The Charter Schools Development Corporation, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that had purchased another former MBNA/Bank of America building at 1000 French St. and leased it to Delaware MET, now had an empty building on its hands. Just as 920 French proved to be an ideal initial location, the building across the street was just right for First State’s expansion.

Downtown Advantages

A large part of First State’s appeal to students and their parents is the array of downtown amenities available through the school.

“Putting suburban kids in a city environment—new sounds, new sights, new experiences. It opens up a whole new world,” Rosenthal says.

While students at suburban schools might take a field trip to a play or a concert, First State

Students follow weekly “work plans” designed by their teachers and based on their individual needs. Photo Joe del Tufo
Students follow weekly “work plans” designed by their teachers and based on their individual needs. Photo Joe del Tufo

students regularly walk to musical and theatrical performances at The Grand, the Playhouse on Rodney Square or First & Central Presbyterian Church. Kindergarten students take dance lessons at The Grand, and grades four through six visit the Wilmington Institute Free Library once a week. “Their artwork gets displayed in the library. That’s a big deal for them,” Rosenthal says.

First State parents provide strong support for the school, Fox says. Some help with landscaping around the building, others staff the teachers’ workroom.

Another group takes regular assignments handling the lunch program. First State contracts with the Community Education Building to prepare and deliver student meals. Parents sort the lunches by class and take them to each classroom and, when they’re done, they assemble breakfasts for the next school day in the same fashion.

“We’ve got a core group of 10 to 15 parents, and others fill in. They try to take the same day each week. With seventh and eighth grade, we’ll probably need more,” says parent Corey Lamborn, who will be coordinating the assignments this year.

“It’s really fun to be there, to see your own kid at lunch time,” she says.

In addition to contracting with the Community Education Building for its lunches, First State uses the back office services of Innovative Schools, a charter school support organization, for its bookkeeping needs, and collaborates with other downtown charter schools on professional development for staff members.

First State’s enrollment is roughly two-thirds white and 25 percent African-American, Latino or multiracial. About 12 percent are considered low-income, and 8 percent have special education needs, according to the latest school profile report filed with the state Department of Education.

About a quarter of the students live in city ZIP codes; the rest come from all over New Castle County, Fox says.

There’s more than a little irony in those enrollment figures. A generation ago, when court-ordered desegregation began in northern New Castle County, student assignments were made with an eye toward setting school enrollments at about two-thirds to three-quarters white. Most white suburban parents were unhappy with their children having to attend city schools for up to three years; many black parents from Wilmington complained that their children endured long bus rides to the suburbs for up to nine years.

With the lifting of the desegregation order more than 20 years ago, and the subsequent development of charter schools and choice programs, few white children from the suburbs are now attending traditional public schools in Wilmington. But the enrollment numbers for First State Montessori demonstrate that there are suburban families who will choose to send their children to a public school in the city.

The Montessori curriculum is certainly a factor in the school’s popularity, board president Nass says. And it’s a plus that leaders like Fox and Madden were well known in the public school and Montessori communities, she adds.

“Parents are looking for choice. They’re shopping,” Nass says. “And we are very clear about our mission.”